Social media or networks are media for social interaction such as blogs, ratings and reviews,
podcasts and video between people who are connected by common attributes which are becoming progressively more important to businesses and organizations. Similar to their rising importance in other industries social media has a lot of applications with immense potential for the pharma industry. There are several strategies that pharma/biotech companies can implement to profit from the social media space in clinical trials such as for patient recruitment, post marketing drug safety apart from building brand, increasing market value etc. These can help pharma/biotech companies achieve their goals in clinical trials.
It is apparent why pharma and biotech companies have been slow to connect with social media. They like maintaining single way flow of information that is screened, approved by regulators and protected against outside interference. They avoid direct interaction with patients because of the fear of change and legal risks, incorrect information quoted by participants, confidentiality, privacy, huge cost, lack of guidance etc.
The research team of an online medical data sharing platform (patient registry) called patientslikeMe has built a data collection tool that collected the symptoms, treatment, and outcomes of participants to evaluate the efficacy of off-label lithium for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The analysis showed no significant treatment effect from lithium which was in agreement with the results of larger, expensive, formal clinical trials signifying that the model produced convincing results offering greater depth of data per patient, a longer timeframe of data collection, and often a larger number of participants, making these data extremely valuable.
Such social media/networkings will allow for speedy recruitment in clinical trials, reduced cost, less time, deepen data collection, and improved disease management. The fact is that social media networking is growing too big to ignore. The magnitude of its growth is staggering. Blogs, forums, and sites like Facebook, twitter, linkedin, Google Plus etc apart from helping the industry spread the word about a specific study. They can also help lower the cost per patient while targeting definite demographic populations.
We all know that how important time in clinical trials is and the role played by the patient. Patient recruitment remains a big challenge for the companies and getting perfect recruitment within less time is beyond the column. A survey conducted by Blue Chip on 179 adults from February through April 2011 summarized that social media can be used to increase enrollment and reduce clinical trial delays. Approaching social media not only presents an efficient way of reaching out to the patient population but also permits companies to come across specific patients they are looking for in the respective clinical study.
Though social media is not widely accepted by the industry, the healthcare professionals and patients are highly influenced by social media in their daily lives. They are having conversations to gather information on health and investigational new drugs in clinical trials, like for example, the Society for Participatory Medicine, a cooperative model that promotes information among patients, caregivers and health care professionals. The pharma and biotech companies should rise above the fear of two way conversation and expand in a way to achieve blockbuster results.
Awareness of regulations governing the social media and its applications will facilitate to lay a foundation to develop better guidelines for participation in social media and networks.
The industry can do wonders leveraging social media in the area of pharmacovigilance detecting adverse events and protecting the patients. There should be a proper management, which can be achieved by having a clear reason for the purpose to engage in social media, mapping out the objectives and to work together with the key leaders. The health care professionals need to be educated and the social media needs to be monitored in order to improve health literacy and easy communication of reliable data.
It is time for the pharma and biotech companies to leverage social media the right way and develop strategies to engage public. The rise of industry and the demand from public signify convincing indication that social media requires getting involved now. Utilizing this opportunity can have massive implication for the clinical research industry.